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‘Cats’ wraps purr-fect run on Broadway

It's over after 18 years, 7,484 performances

The theater industry came out in force Sunday night to bid a fond farewell to “Cats,” the musical that drew whiskers on the face of Broadway for almost two decades.

Onstage, the show’s performers pranced and danced with singular energy, pawing the floor and leaping like there was no kitty tomorrow — which there wasn’t, for the first time in 18 years and 7,484 performances. An audience filled with friends, family and many a former feline cheered the performers on with unbridled exuberance. From the recesses of the balcony came an enthusiastic cry — “Go for it!” — as the cats leaped into the lengthy “Jellicle Ball” dance number for the last time.

A trio of former Grizabellas — Betty Buckley (the Broadway original), Liz Callaway and Loni Ackerman — watched the current glamour cat, Linda Balgord, sing “Memory” for the last time on the stage of the Winter Garden.

When Ms. G. had ascended to the Heavyside Layer at last, the cast, crew and orchestra took their bows. They were joined by Shubert chairman Gerald Schoenfeld, who thanked his fellow producers of the Broadway version and thanked the show, too, for coming along at a time when the Great White Way “desperately” needed it.

He was followed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who cautioned the crowd not to get too excited, saying, “Tonight is just the last night of the show’s first life on Broadway. I don’t know what the fuss is about.”

He also urged the assembled musical theater lovers to “continue to take risks.”

“Cats” director Trevor Nunn and co-producer Cameron Mackintosh spoke briefly, and then confetti drenched the theater as the show’s final fanfare was played. The audience then boarded buses for a lavish party at the Chelsea Piers, where fireworks added a final flourish to the evening.

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